In the run-up to the March for our Lives on Saturday, opponents of gun reform did their level best to paint the organizers as puppets of…who-knows-who. Apparently, in the minds of some, the periodic mass murder of young people is not enough reason for young Americans to protest; for some, the preferred frame is to see the youth as manipulated.
Donors and supporters of the March have not, as far as we can see, refrained from openly expressing their support. Still, after a week of articles in the conservative press speculating about where support may be coming from for the march, the National Rifle Association piled on, tweeting that the marchers were being “backed by radicals with a history of violent threats, language and actions.” It claims that the co-chairs of the national Women’s March group played a major role. But PolitiFact says:
Major organizational muscle behind the march, both in Washington and in cities nationwide, comes from two well-known gun control advocacy groups, neither of which has a history of violent behavior. A number of related organizations have lent their support, including the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and celebrity donors have given millions of dollars.
Instead, the effort’s supporters and donors have been a surprising mix of folks. Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, deployed one of the team’s two planes to transport the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to Washington, DC for the March for our Lives rally there, which drew an estimated 800,000. Kraft has a complicated relationship with President Trump; he donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, only to later say he was “deeply disappointed” by Trump’s comments about football player protests.
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Meanwhile, another major GOP donor, real estate developer Al Hoffman Jr., has launched a new 501c4 group called Americans for Gun Safety Now. Hoffman has said that he will no longer give any money to politicians who do not back a ban on assault weapons, and he is predicting a big loss in the mid-terms unless comprehensive gun control legislation is passed. He has allied with Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the attack.
“What [this group] intends to do is show those who are not on the right side of the movement…there’s a movement elsewhere that can help. Those who stay on the wrong side of this movement, they’re [going to] lose their traditional donor money,” Guttenberg said in an interview with Time. He was introduced to Hoffman through a mutual friend a week after his daughter was killed in the Parkland shooting, and the two are attending the March for Our Lives demonstration together in Washington, D.C.
“[Hoffman] is a man who no one ever would have expected this from, which is what I think makes it so powerful,” said Guttenberg.
All of this is to say that perhaps those children who have so capably developed into citizens (in the broadest sense of the word) may be managing well so far without a “man behind the curtain” pulling levers.—Ruth McCambridge